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Surface and Shadow
by Sally Whitney
Praise for Surface and Shadow:
"A first-rate mystery in the hands of an accomplished storyteller."
~ Philip Cioffari, author of Dark Road, Dead End; Jesusville; and Catholic Boys
Whitney gracefully captures the rhythm of life in a small southern town, creates complex characters
who live and breathe, and explores large themes that affect us all. The story, beautifully told in
an elegant but approachable style, unfolds at an energetic pace that will keep you reading from start
~ Mark Willen, author of Hawke's Point
"While Surface and Shadow offers the compelling tensions of a mystery story, its deeper probing
involves the unknowns of the central character, Lydia Colton. As she delves into the lives of
others connected with the circumstances of a strange death from a half century before, Lydia
comes to realize that she is also confronting the secrets of her own identity. The answer to one
mystery is inseparable from an illumination of the second. What started as a concern about a long
ago death becomes the source of lives renewed, for Lydia and for others. The resolution satisfies
the reader as much as it does Lydia."
~ Walter Cummins, Editor Emeritus of The Literary Review
Terrific read and a wonderful glimpse into the 1970s south. I felt like I was in Lydia's shoes. Very descriptive
yet nuanced storytelling. Look forward to author's next novel. In fact, I wouldn't mind a sequel to this story.
~ Jersey Girl
"Sally Whitney's literary style delivers a character driven novel set in Tanner, North Carolina, a small
town with a southern sense of place where unspoken rules guard the family secrets of a prominent family.
Lydia Colton, a young married woman, feels like an invisible outsider in Tanner until she initiates
changes in her life and in the lives of others. She discovers ways to strengthen the fragile thread of
humanity that runs through all of us when she searches to uncover details surrounding the death of a
member of this prominent family. Vivid descriptions embrace the 1970s years with remarkable accuracy in
this well-crafted narrative that crosses boundaries implanted in the old southern ways."
~ Judith Bader Jones, author of The Language of Small Rooms, Moon Flowers on the Fence, and Delta Pearls
"Surface and Shadow is an evocative portrayal of life in 1972 small-town North Carolina. Multiple challenges
face newcomer Lydia Colton. How does she unravel the mysterious death of an heir to the town's major industry
while safeguarding her husband's fledgling physician career? How does she navigate the bounds of sexism,
racism, and classism tying her hands? How does she find a path to give her life meaning beyond her roles as
wife and mother? This is fiction at its best—memorable and absorbing."
~ Jacqueline Guidry, author of The Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town
In the tradition of good Southern Literature, Surface and Shadow invokes the era of the early 1970's in America
and specifically in small Southern towns. Racism, sexism, and the urge to ignore people who "are different" and
do not conform are issues woven around a family mystery that keeps the reader engaged.
Lydia Colton, wife of the young Dr. returning home, is a newcomer uncomfortable with the confines of being a wife
and with the expectations of her role in the town of Tanner.
She becomes involved with the scions of Tanner, the Galloway family, who has owned the Mill for generations. As she
digs deeper into family history and questions regarding a suspicious death, she is clearly perceived as a woman who
does not know her place.
Unfettered by the demands of her husband that she keep her nose out of other people's business and confine her interest
to the Garden Club and Hospital Auxiliary, Lydia goes on a voyage of discovery which results in changing people's lives
including her own.
~ Ginny Driscoll
How do I know if I have read a good book? I have a few personal tests that seem to work for me. First, It has to be well
written. By that I mean the words, the story, and the characters need to sing in harmony with a clear melody. Sally
Whitney has a knack for dialogue and the book has a rhythm of its own. It is gentle but it keeps nudging you to read more.
I also know if I have read a good book if I can smell the place. I know the smells of the town of Tanner, its streets,
picnics, and homes. My final test is one that creeps up on me. I will be having a friendly conversation and at some point
I say something like, "You won't believe what that just happened to a friend of mine." only to I realize that my friend,
Lydia, is a fictional character from the 1970s. Lydia reminds me of both Miss Marple (Agatha Christie) and Bess Steed
Garner (Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey). Surface and Shadow is a truly lovely first novel.
~ MJ Lazun
This is a compelling story for your book club to discuss. The beautiful imagery of the South along with believable
characters from the 1970s makes the reader eager to begin each chapter. The story is not only about finding the
truth concerning a mysterious death but is also about a young woman finding answers to her own life's meaning.
Truly an enjoyable read. We can only hope more books will be written by this author.
~ S Glenn
I love a novel that keeps me turning pages and also gives me issues to think about. Surface and Shadow does
both. I could identify with Lydia Colton immediately, which caused me to cheer for her and fear for her on every
step of her quest to find out the truth about the death of Howard Galloway, a young man who was one of two heirs
to his family's cotton mill and fortune. I worried about what was going to happen to Lydia, and at the same time
I couldn't wait to see what happened next. I also understood the frustrations she was experiencing in her life.
Women in the 1970s were beginning to realize the limitations society placed on them, and out of that realization
began the modern march that's led to the first woman nominated for President of the United States.
Whitney nails the details of the era and of Lydia's life in this small southern mill town, illuminating the defining
roles shaped by gender, class, and race. Lydia is driven by the need to find justice for Howard, but just as consuming
is her need to find a way to be the person she wants and needs to be.
The characters in this novel are authentic, as real as your neighbors and family. They're not all good or all bad,
just people trying to live their lives within and sometimes outside the ways expected of them. I look forward to
the next intriguing novel from this author.
~ Martha Newland
You know you're reading a good book when you fall into the story on the first page. I instantly felt transported
into that 1970s, slow moving southern town where library cards are only issued in your husband's name. But beneath
the seeming tranquil town lies mystery, dissatisfaction with the status quo and the need to be one's own person.
The main character, Lydia, needs to do SOMETHING, to shake off the discontent that is weighing her down. As she
sets about to solve the decades old town mystery, I found myself cheering Lydia's moxie, occasionally cringing
as I feared for her and ultimately applauding her hunt for answers. Lydia found that sometimes the hunt for one
set of answers will help you with the problem you didn't really know was there. I would love to see Lydia again
in another novel.
~ P Fielding
Wonderful novel with many layers of thought and meaning. Well done Sally Whitney! From the first sentence she
transports us to a small southern town in the '70s. Her rich description of the characters opens a window into
the complicated scenes of their lives all the while touching a nerve that makes us realize that their feelings
are timeless. The main character, Lydia, shines a mirror into the souls of many women seek to define who they
truly are. She is a strong feisty character!!!! Hope we see more of her in future books.
~ Lisa Leydon